Happy 20th birthday, Bryce Harper!
Now that the purveyor of the darkened faux-hawk is no longer a teenager, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on just what he accomplished during his rookie season with the Nationals.
Harper’s 2012 statistical line is indisputably impressive: His 139 games produced a .270 average, 98 runs scored, 26 doubles, nine triples, 22 home runs, 59 RBIs, 56 walks, 18 stolen bases, an on-base percentage of .340, a slugging percentage of .477 and an OPS of .817.
I’m sure the sabremetricians in the baseball universe can add some further advanced metrics that help contextualize what Harper accomplished as a 19-year-old. But this much seems clear: when the Baseball Writers’ Association of America announces the Jackie Robinson National League Rookie of the Year Award on MLB Network at 6 p.m. on Nov. 12, Harper should probably be by a telephone.
But a deeper look inside the numbers shows just how incredible Harper’s debut season was. Consider these facts:
* Harper’s 98 runs scored were the fifth-most in the National League, ranking behind only Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun (108), Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen (107), Arizona’s Justin Upton (107) and Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins (102). Those four players - three of them more renowned as sluggers than on-base guys - played full seasons; Harper didn’t debut until April 28.
* Harper’s power surge late in the season - eight of his 22 homers came in September and October - gave him the second-most home runs by a teenager in major league history, trailing only the 24 by Boston’s Tony Conigliaro in 1964. But he bypassed Mel Ott for the most homers by a teen in National League history. Along the way, Harper eclipsed some pretty impressive names: Ott (19), Ken Griffey Jr. (16), Mickey Mantle (13), Robin Young (11) and Harmon Killebrew (eight). The common theme in that list? All but Griffey are Hall of Famers, and Griffey will one day end up with a plaque in Cooperstown, N.Y.
* Ott’s 19 home runs as a teenager came over three seasons. He debuted for the New York Giants in 1926 as a 17-year-old, hit his first home run the following season and then added 18 more in 1928. By the end of his career, Ott had 511 career homers and had led the National League in that category six times.
* When Harper went deep twice Aug. 29 at Miami, it marked the first time a teenager had recorded a two-homer game since Andruw Jones turned the trick for Atlanta on Aug. 22, 1996, and made Harper only the third teen center fielder to boast that accomplishment. Griffey did it twice for the 1989 Mariners and Brian McCall of the White Sox hit two of his seven major league homers on Sept. 30, 1962.
* With 57 extra-base hits, Harper set a record for players in their age-19 season or younger. Ott had 48 in 1928, the Cubs’ Phil Cavaretta had 48 as an 18-year-old in 1935 and Conigliaro had 47 in 1964.
* Harper also had the most total bases (254) for a teenager in Major League Baseball history. His 18 stolen bases were third most by a teen, and his 98 runs were the second-most by a teenager in major league annals.
* In Game 5 of the National League Division Series on Friday, Harper tripled in the first inning and homered to lead off the third. The triple made him the first teenager to hit a three-bagger in a postseason game (the previous youngest was Upton as a 20-year-old in 2007), while the home run made him the second-youngest to go yard behind Jones, who hit a pair for the Braves in 1996.
* Named as a replacement for Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, Harper was the youngest position player ever named to an All-Star Game.
It’ll be interesting to see if Harper’s late surge was noticed by the BBWAA voters. His biggest competition in the Rookie of the Year vote will come from 25-year-old Diamondbacks lefty Wade Miley, who went 16-11 with a 3.33 ERA, and 26-year-old Reds utility man Todd Frazier, who batted .273 with 19 homers and 67 RBIs. Votes were cast before the end of the regular season.
No telling how Harper marked the move into his 20s. His Twitter account is silent this morning, but a Monday tweet included a photo of a pretty hefty brunch - what appear to be huevos rancheros and a plate of blueberry pancakes.